Pfeiffer criticises Compaq's AltaVista sale

Eckhard Pfeiffer, Compaq's ex-chief executive said his former employer made a huge mistake in selling its stake in AltaVista in June.

"I do not know what the reasoning of the board was in selling AltaVisa, but the company gave away a major presence and a major capability that would have given Compaq a major place in the Internet/e-commerce market," Pfeiffer said.

Compaq had planned to take AltaVista public after spinning off the Web portal last January, but instead changed course and sold its 83 per cent stake in AltaVista to CMGI last June. Compaq had originally acquired AltaVista when it bought Digital under Pfeiffer's stewardship.

Officials at Compaq, including new CEO Michael Capellas, were publicly touting the deal with CMGI as recently as yesterday. Speaking at the Gartner Group's European Symposium/ITxpo '99, Capellas said the terms of the deal allowed Compaq the first right of refusal of technologies developed within CMGI-affiliated companies.

Pfeiffer resigned from Compaq last April after eight years as the company's CEO. Pfeiffer's exit is generally regarded as being forced by Compaq after a poor first-quarter performance that Compaq's chairman Ben Rosen called "disappointing and unacceptable." Pfeiffer was appointed in September to the board of directors at Intershop, which sells software designed to help companies do business online.

"I wasn't interested in being a CEO again," Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer, however, is also a member of the board of directors of General Motors, Hughes Electronics and Bell Atlantic, and serves on the advisory board of Deutsche Bank. He is also on the boards of various cultural and educational institutions.

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